Food Safety - get your facts right!

I recently joined a Facebook group, Feed Yourself for £1 a Day, on the recommendation of a friend – she thought I might be able to help, and I do try.

Whilst I think aiming to eat for so little per day is rather ambitious I certainly salute the idea.

Feed yourself well for pennies.

This is a very busy group, with so many people needing answers to their food questions and so many answering with tips, recipes and info about where bargains can be picked up. All very useful. 

Feed Yourself for £1 a Day has well over 100,000 members and climbing rapidly, so obviously there is a great need for information and it is such a good idea for people to get together and share their knowledge. 

There is a problem, however …

I know it is with the best intentions but some of the members are giving advice which is incorrect and on occasion dangerous and the poor enquirer, presumably, has no idea which is the right advice. A case in point, and one that has worried me, is a discussion on the group yesterday that was started by this question …

I cooked chicken breast pieces last night in the oven at 8 and out in a sealed container but forgot to put in fridge, safe to eat for lunch today? Or is it going in the dog?

He went on to say …

Went straight from the oven to the container and sealed, was too warm to put in the fridge straight away then forgot.
And …
It literally went straight from the oven to a sealed container.

This last point is particularly worrying see chart below.

Amongst 68 answers so far are the following …

~   Done that regularly and we're all fit and healthy. Don't waste it.
~   If it smells ok I would use it.
~   It’s not like the suns cooking it whilst its sitting out.
~   If the room wasn’t hot it will be fine.
~   Smell it and cut a bit off too taste, you will know before lunch if it's safe too eat.
~   I'd eat it. I've done that before and i was fine. Germs are on everything!
~   Eat it if it was covered. Don't eat it if it wasn't covered.

Etc. and many, many other comments saying it will be fine. 

I think the person looking for advice was absolutely right to ask and realise that the people answering are trying to help, with the best will in the world this sort of advice is dangerous. It is very likely that chicken treated like that will not be fine.

The facts of the matter are …

Most food poisoning bacteria do not cause food to look, smell or taste bad. Food that looks, smells and tastes fine can still make you very ill. Relevant to this post salmonella which chicken can be susceptible to, does not smell or taste any different from un-contaminated chicken.

Food bacteria love a warm environment and their favourite temperature range is 5ooC–63oC  (122o F-145oF). At this temperature they grow and frolic and spread easily. Below 5ooC/122oC they are very slow and sluggish which is why food kept in the fridge stay fresh longer. If you reheat food properly to a high temperature (over 82o C/180oF) right through, then the bacteria will actually be killed and the food safe to eat.

For this reason food that is to be eaten later should be cooled or allowed to cool as quickly as possible, so not kept in a cooling oven or a sealed bag or container. As the UK Government guidelines on food safety say ...

Cooling will always be a step that is critical to food safety. 

Here is a chart from the UK government on food temperature control.

Correct storage and serving food temperature chart.

What this Facebook group has brought home to me, however, is how very little people generally seem to know about food and cooking. I had heard it said before that my generation (aka quite old) were the last to learn to cook from their mothers (this is how my Mum taught me, unorthodox but oh how it worked!) but hadn’t seen the reality of it till now. 

So, on the one hand, thank God for communities like Feed Yourself for £1 a Day but on the other hand, please do be sure of your facts before posting and don’t believe everything you read!!! There is plenty of info out there if you do a simple search.

Sorry to be so serious but I think this is important information that people should be aware of.

In Other News …

Suzy Bowler Learn to Cook

I have seriously updated my website so please have a look here and see what you think of it. 

In fact, related to the above, although I’d love to make lots of money (but not be famous!) I mainly write my cookbooks in the hopes that I might help people cook real delicious food just as they like it for themselves and loved ones without spending loads of money. Maybe my new website will help.

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